A post written in 2014 seems to be making its way around the interwebs again lately. The post is called “14 things that are obsolete in 21st century schools.” A link has been provided at the end of this article. Let’s talk about these “14 things” and why they may or may not be obsolete and why, obsolete or not, they still exist. Note: The follow opinions are those of David Henderson (davidinark) ONLY and do not necessarily reflect those of any employer, local, state, or national agency or organization.
- Computer Rooms – Most tech industries, startups, etc work in “lab-like” environments where coders, UIX-ers, customer service reps, etc all work in one big room with computers at desks. On another note: it is MUCH cheaper to purchase and maintain a lab environment. Like it or not, we are responsible for the dollars we receive and how they are used for student instruction. Would many schools LIKE to be 1:1? Sure. Reality? Never gonna happen due to limited and/or even decreasing funds.
- Isolated Classrooms – I agree with this one. Classrooms should have access to and make use of a wide range of resources available to students. Classrooms should not be cut off from the world, but rather embrace the broader world in order to facilitate learning and conversation.
- Schools Without Wifi – In an ideal world, yes, all schools would have wifi. In the real world, there are many reasons why schools might not have wifi. Money is usually thrown into the mix early during any conversations about rolling out a new, second network in schools. Even with programs like e-rate, which help schools obtain equipment and services for discounted pricing, many districts still simply do have the funds to offset the portions of those programs for which the district is responsible. There are physical constraints as well. For example, many school buildings are old with thick stone walls. This means that more devices are required in order to provide the necessary coverage because signals cannot penetrate the surfaces. It also means that buildings may require costly infrastructure upgrades such as electrical outlets, increased energy service, etc. In addition to the capital outlay costs, we’re also talking about the increased monthly bills associated with power, service agreements, etc.
- Banning cell phones and tablets – This is a tough one. If the district is able to create, maintain and enforce rules and policies for the use of the devices, I’m all for it. These devices can be use to greatly enrich the education of students when use appropriately and within appropriate contexts. As with nearly everything in life: moderation is key. Truth is, most adults can’t handle having cell phones in their workplace. How we can expect much-less developmentally mature students to handle them? It takes education, discipline, and re-education. Do I believe the should be banned? No. But, when a district is battling videos of students having sex circulating around all the devices on campus, it makes it hard to convince administration that the devices are worthwhile educational tools.
- Tech directors with admin account – Okay, this header is VERY misleading to the point the author makes. In a nutshell, the author is saying the tech director is the ONLY person with admin access. Now, that I agree with. I have been in education for 20+ years and I have NEVER restricted my regular users from having admin access on their machines. Why would I? Let them make them machines their own. They want to try a new photo editor? Great! They want to change the desktop wallpaper? Great! I know, I know – what about malware, viruses, etc? Those are valid concerns. Ideally, the tech director has the network protected. Sometimes, things happen, though. Heck, in most cases, the access level of the logged in user has NOTHING to do with the infection that spreads because savvy attackers work around the limitations anyway. On top of that, for every restriction placed on a user, there is one more thing the tech director is then responsible for. No thanks. I have enough to do already.
- Teacher that don’t share – Agreed. Teachers should be sharing and should be ALLOWED to share what they are doing. There is a LOT of backlash against sites like Teachers-Pay-Teachers because teachers are making money from the products and projects teachers are selling. Unless there is a discrepancy regarding intellectual property (which there is in some districts), I say teachers should absolutely share. Even if you are not out to make money on your ideas, SHARE them. Get the word out about something you did that worked wonders with your students. Share the struggles you’re having with particular content in order to ask for help. Sharing means building a community and network with which one can learn and grow professionally and personally.
- Schools without Facebook and/or Twitter – I agree 100%. How does your school NOT have a tool that allows community outreach, a celebration platform, and a way to share the things happening at your school!? No way. Don’t have one? Get one. Set it up with appropriate posting restrictions, shared administrative duties, and tools (like Tweetdeck) to schedule and maintain your content. EduTechGuys can help you get going!
- Unhealthy cafeteria food – I agree with this one, right down to students putting their own food on their own trays and cleaning up after themselves. But, I also believe students should have access to snacks which aren’t so healthy as treats or desserts. Look, I ate plenty of fried donuts in grade school. We had to buy them as extra, which made them even more of a treat. We don’t have to go balls-to-the-wall nuts over some of this stuff. It’s called moderation. (See #4 above).
- Starting school at 8 o’clock for teens – Oh boy. I disagree with this one. The author says schools should have flexible starting/stopping times. No. Welcome to 99% of the real world. People have to be in certain places at certain times. Period. Look at this from an adult perspective. You are going to a conference. Maybe you are keynoting that conference. Keynote starts at 8am. But, nah, some people would rather come in at noon because they aren’t really “morning” people. Is that acceptable? Would you adjust your keynote and/or give it 6-, 8-, 10 times per day in order to accommodate your learners? What about staff meetings? Sure, the boss says they start at 10am, but that doesn’t work for you, so you just show up at 2pm and that should be fine, right? Your client needs that app you’re developing delivered by 10am for a presentation to their venture capital partners. But, nah, thats’s okay. The developer would rather bring it the next day. I know, many folks will say, “That’s not the same…” Yes, yes it is.
- Buying design work – Generally, I agree with this. Why hire some outside firm to design graphics, pamphlets, posters, etc for YOUR district!? Who knows your district better than the teachers and students *IN* the district!? No one – er, hopefully. My take on this: have students/teachers design the product and present their concept. If not acceptable, then work with them to get it right. If that still doesn’t work, then perhaps look at external development. I have seen some crazy talented work from students that easily rivals that which comes from high-paid graphic design agencies.
- Traditional Libraries – Again, I agree with this one. Libraries have evolved. In fact, many have become the “makerspace” location for schools. Be open to offering much more than printed books – but, don’t get rid of all those printed books! Many students love the tangible interaction of reading words on the page, hold the book in their hands, turning the pages with their fingers.
- All students get the same – I agree. Perhaps at the elementary levels, individualized choices are limited, but as students show mastery, they should be allowed to grow and choose what they want to learn. Working in groups based on what they are learning and not necessarily because they are the same age leads to robust learning. Of course, there are certain age-related appropriateness issues that need to be addressed as well. But, if you have students showing incredible proficiency in certain subjects, why should they be restricted simply because of their age?
- One-PD-fits-all – I agree. How many times have you gone to a professional development opportunity only to realize you could have been better served if they just given you the slides and let you learn the material on your own? How many times have you been to PD where you were required to sit for 6 hours because the content doesn’t matter, just the fact that you had your butt in a chair for the required length of time? Those days should be long, long gone by now.
- Standardized Tests Measure Quality of Education – I agree. I wish we could do away with standardized testing. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, so much federal funding is tied to these tests. As much as we love to say, “keep your fed money, we don’t want it,” the truth is that those monies are tied to programs that are vital for schools and which could not function without those monies – special education, certain federal programs, etc. What we need is to disconnect those funds from the tests. I remember taking a standardized test in 5th grade and then another in 8th grade. I think it might have been the IOWA test, maybe? I dunno. But, that’s my point: I don’t know because I don’t remember. I don’t remember because it was never made into a big deal. We didn’t have “test parties” and all that. It was treated as no big deal, no pressure. Kids are WAY over tested. Period. Not just standardized, but in general. The real world doesn’t work that way. If you were tested every three days, how much work could get done? How much learning could you get done?
While the article does raise some valid points, there are certainly some aspects which seem to indicate that the author lives in some perfect, money-rich world. That would be nice.